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beans not softening in my crock pot

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I used my new crock pot for the first time today to make black bean soup. I soaked the beans overnight and then cooked them on high for an hour in the crock pot this morning. I then added sauteed onions, peppers, and garlic as well as a few spices and a ham hock and put it to low. After six hours the beans were still hard and I turned the heat up to medium. I cooked the soup for about 10 hours total. The beans had softened enough but weren't that tender. The rest of the vegetables were like a puree.

I've never used a crock pot before. Did I do something wrong? I didn't salt until the end.


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  1. No, your beans were old. You need to buy them from a vendor who turns over a lot of beans. Old really dehydrated beans will never successfully soften.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Candy

      Candy is right. I find stale dried beans to be a growing problem. Americans just aren't cooking. And when they do, they're apparently using canned.

      The solution I have found is to go to high-end markets that serve serious cooks, so the beans turn over. The right ethnic markets would work, too, if you can discover a convenient one.

    2. I've had nearly the exact problem with black beans. My solution- buy em canned and season the hell out of em.

      1. My meager knowledge of crock pots is that low is around 130 and high around 170. Further, it takes several hours to get to the end temp. So one hour on high is equavelent to one hour at 100 (assuming you started with tap water) and that does nothing.

        As to the varied consistencies, beans really require 180-plus while the veggies you mention will sog-out at any warm temperature in 20 minutes.

        In the future I'd suggest cooking the beans on simmer (stove) for the hour in the morning. To equal the cleanup, add the raw veggies (with the cooked beans) to the crockpot. Or saute when you get home. Sauteing probably cooks the veggies as much as they need.

        2 Replies
        1. re: SteveT

          Newer crockpots are higher in temp.

          1. re: SteveT

            High on my Rival is ~325.

            The OP probably had old beans.

          2. even with an overnight soak, i always boil beans for a little while on the stove before throwing them into the crockpot.

            additionally, the other problem may be the salt content from the ham hock and any other additional salt you may have added (in seasonings combos or alone) to the mixture. the salt will always prevent unsoftened beans from obtaining that creamy texture.

            go ahead and soak them the morning before you leave for work. in the evening, change the water and boil them for an hour then proceed as usual.

            Link: http://shecraves.typepad.com

            2 Replies
            1. re: wasabi

              America's Test kitchen cooked beans last week, they claimed salt preventing beans from softening was not true.

              1. re: Alan408

                hm, that's interesting. i should show them the rattlesnake bean soup that i tried to make when my roommate prepped it for me and added all the salt at once. they never relented their hardness. i'll still keep it as a hard and fast rule.

            2. Dried legumes need to cook on high in a crockpot.

              1. Except for beans like lentils, you must not only soak but parboil beans before putting the crock pot: cooking them on high for an hour in the crock pot does not replace proper parboiling. You need to parboil them until they are starting to get tender; that will vary with the age of the beans (and really old beans will never really get tender).

                A modest amount of salt is not an issue for bean tenderness (in fact, you should salt beans while they are cooking to flavor them properly); acids are what toughen the skins. And alkali help soften the skins, so adding a healthy pinch of baking soda (not baking powder) to beans while they are parboiling helps speed the process. (But you need to toss the parboiling liquid afterwards.)

                2 Replies
                1. re: Karl S.

                  I forget whether the last crockpot stew (lamb and goat) I made used white or grean northern beans, but I pre-soaked over night then just left my 3 year old crockpot on low for about 9 hours and they came out perfectly tender, no parboiling needed. This was after of course braising the meats, adding some home made chicken stock, home made marinara, and various vegetables and spices.

                  Conversely, we used some dried/soaked pinto beans to try and make baked beans recently and well they never got as soft as we wanted, even after simmering them on the stove for about 5 hours.

                  Beans are funny.

                  1. re: Karl S.

                    Not to say you might not want to do it anyway, but for the record, the bicarb will decompose B vitamins.

                  2. Interesting coincidence...I made homemade baked beans to bring up to son at college for a social event. I've successfully done this before many times--beans, etc. in crock pot. But this time I boiled the beans, let them sit for an hour and checked. Not soft. So boiled again added another 45 minutes, and thought, OK!

                    Bottom line, they still weren't totally soft. With baked beans, only put the beans with the texture you want into the pot. They will never get more tender as they cook...as they go i, so they will be textured on exit. After years of doing this I'm finally getting it..hope you learn from this hard earned knowledge!

                    The crock pot is great, but will not cure the ills of too fast prep of the beans, which I've found are way longer than the package...

                    Have fun, good luck with the next batch.

                    1. OK, I didn't read all the replies but I was just reading that putting foil directly on top of the beans will keep the heat in the bottom of the crock pot(rather than up at the top) and voila - the beans cook properly. I haven't actually tried this myself but seems reasonable. I read it in Cooks Country - a publication by the a.r. folks at Cooks Illuatrated.

                      1. I had this problem, too and actually boiled beans for hours with no softening. I think the problem was that the beans were old and the store from which I purchased them did not have a good turnover.

                        I did hear someone on tv, I think it was the Master Chef (Ramsay) program complain that his beans did not soften in a soup and he blamed the addition of acid (tomatoes, I believe).

                        Ok, I just read this on the WholeFoods website:

                        'Regardless of cooking method, do not add any seasonings that are salty or acidic until after the beans have been cooked since adding them earlier will make the beans tough and greatly increase the cooking time. '

                        1. You don't have to soak beans overnignt to make them soft. Beans soften on descent (cooling), not on the ascent (boiling).
                          Boil beans in hot water (it takes 5 min to get it to boil) and after that, leave them for 15-20 min for cooling, Repeat the cycle 3 times.
                          The full cycle is:
                          boil-cool; boil-cool, boil-cool. Beans will be soft after end of third cycle. Obviously you can add another cycle but most likely it won't be needed